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Lyris study finds reputation, not content, key to deliverability

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What you put into your e-mail marketing messages may not be as important as you once thought—at least in terms of deliverability. According to Lyris Technologies’ EmailAdvisor ISP Delivery Report Card Q1 2007, reputation is the No. 1 factor that ISPs use when processing your e-mails.

“We’re seeing that delivery is still clearly a challenge, but it’s not what you’re including in the content; it’s about hygiene and reputation,” said Stefan Pollard, director of consulting services at EmailLabs. “The ISPs are looking at who’s on your list, are they clicking through, what are they doing with your e-mail when they receive it and are you following up and cleaning your lists often and well?”

The answer, according to the study, is no. Only 83.88% of all ISP mail gets delivered, while only 74.57% of messages make it into the in-box. And it’s often the top ISPs that have the worst delivery rates; for example, Gmail sends 28% of messages to junk folders, while Yahoo sends 19% of messages to the bulk folder.

Pollard said marketers should heed the following advice to make sure their messages aren’t shuttled aside.

  1. Get rid of old addresses. Just because an e-mail isn’t bouncing doesn’t mean it’s not hurting your reputation. ISPs view dormant accounts as honeypots; if a customer hasn’t logged on to an account in a long time but you’re still sending e-mails, you may be branded a spammer. “Even if that person was a true opt-in, it’s going to pull your grade down,” Pollard said.
  2. Watch your image weight. Although what you write may not matter as much, your messages should contain more text than images because filters are still set to block image-based messaging. “Content filters are dumb,” Pollard said. “If it looks like ‘A’ then it must be ‘A.’ ”
  3. Make sure ‘From’ fields are personalized. This is the second piece of content that ISPs look for, Pollard said. If your ‘From’ line is simply an automatically generated address, such as customersupport123@domain.com, the use of numbers especially in that address is going to raise a flag. “The content filters are definitely still keying on that,” he said.
  4. Make opt-out instructions and links very visible. Most deliverability problems can be linked back to subscriber feedback. Your subscribers mark your messages as spam because they can’t figure out how to get off your list. Make it easy for them and you’ll have fewer complaints and, theoretically, a higher reputation score. “You should be moving toward smaller, more active lists,” he said. “It should be about quality rather than quantity.”
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